REVIEWED BY JANET BAYLISS
Juliet Blaxland (Sandstone Press: 2019)
This book has been a local bestseller, chronicling the passage of a Suffolk house, its environs and occupants through a whole year. The house was situated on the cliff at Easton Bavents, the most eastern part of Suffolk which is subject to continuous erosion by the sea – an ongoing theme within the book. Published in 2019, its relevance is now made poignant because the house was demolished in January 2020 as it had been undermined by the loss of land beneath it. By that stage the author and her husband had lived there for twelve years.
I found reading the book to be an uplifting experience, allowing for a bit of repetition in the introduction. The author is about my vintage (fifty-five at the time of writing the book) capturing very well aspects of her childhood which created half-remembered echoes of my own experience. Although her background speaks of a kind of faded gentility and genuine understanding of the life of the English countryside that I could never aspire to – mine was a more suburban childhood.
The author is an army wife, architect and cartoonist, but she mostly describes her country life at the house with various pursuits ranging from beachcombing to the joys of dog walking and village cricket, along with her personal philosophical observations. She makes a plea for the understanding and retention of parts of rural life that are now very threatened in our changing world. It is possible to criticise the book for portraying a limited view of contemporary English life, but I found it by turns charming, whimsical and lyrical. The writer gently approaches difficult questions, making the reader come away with a vivid appreciation of a unique place and time. She did this so well that many reviewers wanted to go there!